Amref Health Africa-trained Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has been selected to participate in the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.
Nailantei will join young leaders from across sub-Saharan Africa and the United States at the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit which includes a six-week leadership training and a three-day interactive session with U.S. leaders in business, government and the non-profit sector. U.S. President Barack Obama will host the Summit.
Nailantei, who has been working as a project officer under the Amref Health Africa in Kenya Alternative Rites of Passage program for the last three years, continues to play a key role in Alternative Rites of Passage to ensure girls and women in her Maasai community transition to womanhood without undergoing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She also acts as a role model to help the girls avoid early pregnancy and marriage and complete their education.
“I personally have seen too many women and girls, too many friends, have their dreams taken away from them. Traditional harmful practices have impacted their lives. They’ve had to go through the horrors of bleeding so much from genital cutting that they died, being called cowards when they cry, having difficulties when giving birth and being forced into early marriage. And this needs to change,” she said.
Nailantei has been educating her community, including Maasai cultural elders, Traditional Birth Attendants, mothers and girls, chiefs and church leaders on the negative effects of FGM. She has even overcome the challenge of convincing young Maasai men, referred to as morans, that FGM should be abandoned. With support from some of the elders, Nailantei managed to slowly challenge their traditional mind-set and get the morans on board to accept the new rite of passage. The elders recognized her efforts and awarded her the Esiere, a black walking stick used by Maasai elders to symbolize leadership.
As an Amref Health Africa ambassador, Nailantei has taken this message to the global stage. In 2013, she spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York about her spirited effort to stop FGM in Kajiado County in Kenya and at a TEDx Talk in the Netherlands, and continues to be an agent of change in her community on sexual and reproductive health rights.
To date, more than 9,000 girls in Loitoktok, Magadi, Samburu in Kenya and Kilindi in Tanzania have gone through an Alternative Rites of Passage ceremony – rather than FGM – through Amref Health Africa’s project